Runner's Double Fear

By Bruce Wilk, P.T., O.C.S

As a physical therapist that specializes in treating runner's injuries, I am very aware of the psychological consequences that an injury has on an athlete. At some point everybody experiences a fear of losing mobility, serious injury or death. Runners have an even greater fear because this lack of mobility affects their ability to maintain their hard won athleticism. And no matter how temporary the injury may be, there is always the fear of losing one's ability to run permanently.

Runners have a double fear of being injured or becoming ill resulting in their inability to run. A serious injury tends to peak this double fear. In the runner's mind the thought that this injury may be permanent is ever present. This is largely based on the fact that so much of their life and self-identity revolves around running.

When a runner experiences an injury, they may initially go into denial. This is a potentially dangerous and an ineffective means of coping with the fear of a permanent injury. Denial may cause the runner to ignore a simple injury, which in turn may cause the injury to become unnecessarily severe. "Immortality syndrome" (or the feeling that one is invincible) has ruined many athletic careers and occasionally led to an early preventable death. Recognizing that everyone has the potential for injury and illness if they are active sports participants is a basic concept and we should therefore approach those injuries with maturity and not let fear overtake our sensibilities.
Part of this acceptance that we can be vulnerable to injury should include some type of prevention within a well-rounded training program. Each of us needs to learn the difference between the normal discomfort caused by training and the pain resulting from a recent injury. The runner must pay particular attention to pain that lingers while resting, limits the ability to do normal daily activities, and/or causes a limp while running. These are important warning signs that should not be ignored. Using medication to train through pain is also part of the denial process that could prolong or potentially aggravate a running injury. Denial of an injury feeds the runner's double fear. Confronting this fear head on is a healthy alternative that promotes healing and an earlier return to your favorite sport.

Healthy running,

Bruce R. Wilk, P.T., O.C.S.,

Orthopedic Rehabilitation Specialists

8720 N. Kendall Drive

Suite 206

Miami, FL 33176



Copyright 2009 by Florida East Coast Runners and Bruce Wilk.  Reproduction or reprinting without written permission is illegal.

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